"Observe all the sounds around you. Take a short break and notice how your body feels: the voice of the Headspace app is both soft and warm. It invites you to become aware of the present moment and to stop worrying about the future. The invitation is welcome: from financial stress to health concerns, there are many factors of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meditation could be a simple way to overcome the crisis. Its impact on stress and anxiety has been repeatedly demonstrated, from a neurological, physical and psychological point of view. "We have observed changes in the brain structures involved in attention, memory and executive functions following the practice of meditation," explains Nancie Rouleau, full professor at the School of Psychology at Laval University. .

And, good news, it is not necessary to practice meditation in a specialized center to enjoy the benefits of this activity. Research has also demonstrated the effectiveness of certain mobile applications that offer mindfulness-type meditations – notably Calm and Headspace – where the person is invited to refocus by focusing on the present.

"Applications are one of the most accessible ways to start meditating," said Rosalie Bergeron, who teaches meditation at Cégep du Vieux Montréal.

Some, however, may appeal to you more than others, if only because of the speed or accent of the guide, or the timbre of his voice. "We have to find an application that gives us the impression of being accompanied, where the teacher seems to meditate with us rather than just reading a text. This is extremely important, "said Louis-Pierre Tessier, founder of the Lotus Center for Mindfulness Meditation.

To help you find the one that suits you best, Protégez-Vous first identified four of the most popular apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, then asked Nancie Rouleau, Rosalie Bergeron and Louis-Pierre Tessier to assess them. Here are their conclusions.

>> Read also: 5 tips to preserve your mental health in times of crisis

headspace

Headspace

The ultimate app for those who want to learn meditation, according to the experts consulted by Protégez-Vous.

Strong points : the software guides beginners well and tackles many specific themes depending on what you want to improve (stress level, sleep, studies, work and productivity, etc.). The duration of certain sessions can be adapted according to the time available, for example 3, 5 or 10 minutes. More than 25 studies demonstrating the effectiveness of Headspace have been published to date, and more than 65 are underway. It’s a great app for you to develop your independence to the point where you don’t need it one day.

Weak points : the French voices are correct, but they were less appreciated by the experts than the English voices. The childish interface with its animations and drawn characters does not appeal to everyone.

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Languages: English French

Trial period : 14 days

Subscription price: $ 17.99 per month or $ 89.99 per year

Free component: 10 sessions of initiation to meditation are unlocked, as are a few sessions closely related to COVID-19. The free component also lets you listen to daily meditation, which changes daily, but stops being offered after listening to three in total.

calm

Calm

This meditation application, the most popular on the market, is the one recommended by the experts consulted if you want to meditate in French. Calm not only offers mindfulness meditations, but also sleep stories and music to help you sleep, focus or relax.

Strong points : the app offers a large amount of meditation and relaxation content for all levels as well as quality teaching in French. She offers meditations based on your mood for the day. The Small Calms pane presents content for children, listed by their age group. The application itself is calming thanks to its animations and soundscapes inspired by nature. The annual subscription is cheaper than the others.

Weak points : Calm is less effective than its competitor Headspace in making users independent in their meditation practice. No monthly subscription is offered. A lifetime subscription exists, but it is not offered in the application in Canada.

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Languages: English French

Trial period : 7 days

Subscription price: $ 76.99 per year

Free component: only a handful of meditations can be heard for free after the trial period.

breethe

Breethe

This application, whose in-depth content could interest the followers of meditation, seduced our experts.

Strong points : the sessions are warm and give the impression that the teacher is accompanying the user by meditating with him. The interface is simple and the content, created by renowned teachers, is of good quality. In addition to meditation, Breethe offers music, audio lectures and master classes on meditation. The free offer is above average. This is the only application that offers a lifetime plan among those that Protégez-Vous has tried.

Weak points : sessions and interface are offered in English only. More expensive than other apps.

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Language : English

Trial period : 14 days

Subscription price: $ 17.49 per month, $ 119.99 per year or $ 209.99 for life (promotional rate; package usually offered at $ 549) on iOS, or $ 12.99 per month, $ 99 per year or 199.99 $ for life (promotional rate; package usually offered at $ 399) on Android

Free component: various sessions – for waking up, public transportation, work, etc. – are offered free of charge. Sessions closely linked to COVID-19 were also unlocked during the crisis.

fabulous

Fabulous – Coach Meditation!

This application offers meditation sessions, but above all it is intended to be a virtual guide to help you improve your lifestyle (playing sports, taking your medication, studying, etc.).

Strong points : it’s a scientific lifestyle change method developed at Duke University in the United States. The app contains a large amount of varied audio content – which is not necessarily meditation – to increase your concentration during work, to allow you to relax or to train.

Weak points : some sessions are recorded in French by a robotic voice and not by a real teacher. The software is less suitable than the others for those who only want to practice meditation. The interface, not very intuitive and cumbersome, requires a certain time of adaptation and has even stressed some experts.

Compatibility: Android, iOS

Languages: English French

Trial period : 7 days

Subscription price: $ 18.99 per month or $ 64.99 ($ ​​67.99 on Android) per year (promotional rate)

Free component: Fabulous offers two free programs to help you develop habits related to your energy level and your sleep. You then have to pay to unlock additional programs.

Watch out for accidental subscriptions!

Almost all meditation apps offer to subscribe for one year when you activate them for the first time. Unfortunately, accidental subscriptions seem to be frequent, according to comments from users of the App Store and Google Play Store, especially because you have to subscribe to take advantage of the free trial periods. Remember to unsubscribe before the trial period ends to prevent the full amount from being charged to your credit card.

In English or French?

If your English level allows, listen to the English and French versions of the apps when both are available. The experts interviewed by Protégez-Vous are unanimous: finding a teacher with a voice, style and tone that suits you is more important than listening to meditation apps in your mother tongue.